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Case Title:

The Evolution of the Toyota Production System

Publication Year : 2004

Authors: Hansa Iyengar, Sumit Kumar Chaudhuri

Industry: Automobiles


Case Code: OPM0002

Teaching Note: Available

Structured Assignment: Available

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After World War II, engineers and managers from the ‘Toyota Motor Co.’ undertook a 'pilgrimage' to the US and visited the plants of auto giants like ‘General Motors' and 'Ford' to study the production system of the US carmakers. During this trip, Toyota's people noticed many inherent flaws in the mass production system of the US carmakers that generated a lot of 'waste' at every step of the production process. The mass production system was also found out to be unsuited for the then small and fragmented Japanese automobile market. Taiichi Ohno, then a Plant Manager at Toyota (who later became the Executive Vice President), was given a mission to develop a manufacturing system that used the assembly line, but was still flexible enough to enable low production volumes. The result was the ‘Toyota Production System’. Popularly known as the ‘Toyota Way’, this system was the driving force behind Toyota’s phenomenal success, with the company becoming the world's second largest automaker with a 11% market share at the end of 2003.

Pedagogical Objectives:

  • To understand the evolution of the Toyota Production System
  • To discuss how it established it as distinct from other manufacturing systems
  • To discuss the backbone behind Toyota’s phenomenal success.

Keywords : Toyota; Toyota production system (TPS); Operating Strategies Case Study; Taiichi Ohno; The Toyota way; Principles of the Toyota way; Lean production; Just-in-time (JIT); Kanban; Kaizen; Poke yoke; Heijunka; Mass production; US big three; Genchi genbutsu


  • Introduction
  • The genesis of Toyota and the Toyota way
  • The philosophy behind TPS
  • The production system

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